Michael Graves on HME

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Q. What's your general impression of the current state of design of home medical equipment?
A. Home medical equipment seems to have evolved from durable products found in institutions such as hospitals and rehabilitation centers, which are intended to be used over and over by different people. That equipment is entirely function-driven and rather humdrum. Taken out of institutions to the home, those categories of medical equipment become personal care products for individual use. They can thus take on a "personality" in addition to satisfying functional requirements.
Q. Why did you become interested in home medical equipment?
Q. We frequently deal with accessibility issues in our architectural practice but have become interested in home medical equipment in our product design practice only recently. I suffered lower body paralysis two years ago following an infection in my spinal column and have spent extensive time in hospitals and rehab centers. I therefore have been exposed to a wide range of durable medical products (as well as environments) that could be much better designed.
Q. Many home medical equipment retailers have failed to turn medical equipment from an 'I need'-type item to an 'I want' item. Do you think that can be changed?
A. Absolutely, once there are better choices available. Perhaps only one member of a household needs to use bath safety products for example. The rest of the household has to live with them, so the way they look in the bathroom becomes important. Assuming that various products have equivalent functionality and cost, they can be distinguished based on aesthetic design. You'll never replace the need but improving the choices will create the "want."